Sign one that Derek Mason may not be fully focused on this week's matchup after beating Missouri: he can't remember the name of the Houston quarterback he's planning to stop on Saturday.
Mason extolled the dynamic offensive attack that "Gary Ward" brings to the #18 Cougars, who likely heard his comments and then examined their official roster before pointing to starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and asking "him?" The Commodore head coach repeatedly referred to the All-AAC passer by the wrong name while praising his abilities behind center. Here's how he opened Tuesday's press conference.
[Houston is] #18 in the country. Tremendous talented offense led by Gary [sic] Ward, who's done a tremendous job not only getting the ball into the end zone but bolstering a strong running game...Defensively, I think they're a really good unit that's been stingy. Offense has done a great job of putting pressure on teams and the defense has gone a great job taking the ball away.
For us, it's definitely going to be a challenge...but like anything else, I always look forward to a challenge. I think the pressure's on Houston. For us, we've just got to continue to do what we do and gain a little bit of ground.
The first question he fielded led him further down the rabbit hole on Houston's dual threat quarterback Ward and his new nickname:
Gary [sic] Ward is a special player. Different than any of the other quarterbacks that we've played. He's been able to manage his offense, take care of the football, score himself, and I think that's a big key. When things break down, he can get it in.
I compare him to Everett Golson. I saw Everett when he was at Notre Dame and had to defend him, and they're very similar guys. Just in terms of their abilities, to be able to throw the football on a frozen rope and extend plays once things break down. We have to be extremely conscious of setting edges, caging the rabbit, and making sure that we keep him inside the pocket.
Mistaken identities aside, Mason could not have been much more complimentary of Saturday's opponent.
I'm looking forward to the challenge. Tom Herman is one of the best offensive coordinators in the country. It's gonna be mano a mano. Our players are going to have to lineup against theirs and we're going to have to settle this thing between the white lines, so let's have some fun.
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After discussing Houston's QB situation, Mason was reticent to explain too much about his own. When pressed on who will be starting for the Commodores, Johnny McCrary or Kyle Shurmur, he told reporters that the decision will be made based on who plays the best in practice this week. However, his answer left room for speculation as to whether or not he'll play more than one quarterback for the second straight week.
We'll continue to look at the best option, and the best option - who's had the best week of practice and managed the game - will be out there first.
To be honest, I think Johnny's helped Kyle and Kyle's helped Johnny...I think these guys are doing a great job of managing not only the game, but helping each other become better quarterbacks.
I want to see the best out of both these guys. I think Kyle is developing and I think that Johnny is still an ultra talent. But it's only when talent is stressed, challenged, or mentored that talent can actually become something that's valuable to a football team...Hopefully what we do Monday through Friday will give us a chance to win on Saturday.
Mason also praised his team's defensive effort and singled out this monster hit from Darreon Herring as a tone-setter for the team's mindset headed into Saturday's game (thanks to ComradDore for the gif):
Despite forgetting Greg Ward Jr.'s name, Mason displayed a low-key confidence on the heels of his first SEC victory. You can watch today's press conference in his entirety below, thanks to VUCommodores.com.